Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 2, No 3 (2008)

‘Who can tell, mon ami?’ Representations of bilingualism for a majority monolingual audience

Gaelle Planchenault
Issued Date: 11 Dec 2008


In this article, I propose to show that representations of a foreign speaker’s accent, code-switching and choice of lexical items are accounts of bilingual behaviours according to monolinguals. My study draws on an analysis of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and the British televised adaptation broadcast on ITV channel. In order to identify popular conceptions regarding transfers from L1 French, the lines of the Belgian detective are analysed on a lexical and syntactic level. The minimal use of foreign words is particularly significant. Employed as a framing device (Coupland, 2001) or for ethnosymbolism (Haarmann, 1986), the peppered French words are token bilingualism, which often responds to limited language competence on the part of the audience (Androutsopoulos, 2007). Finally I argue that as it is obvious that the visual media are the main spaces where reproductions of linguistic stereotypes occur (Lippi-Green, 1997), it is crucial for audiences to be aware that these are cultural constructs they have been conditioned to believe in.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v2i3.425


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